Washington General Service (WGS) Position Description Guide

This guidance is intended to help you develop a useful, complete position description. Each section below corresponds to a section of Washington State’s General Classified Service Position Description (PD) form.

Note: The PD form has protected sections to enable drop-down menus and checkboxes. The unprotected sections allow you to bold, underline, spell-check, and paste in bulleted text. If you prefer, you may unprotect the entire document, but it will disable drop-down menus and checkboxes.

Position Objective

Key purposes:

  • To describe the position’s main role in the organization.
  • To show the employee how his or her work helps the organization achieve its mission.

Tips for success:

  • Be brief and clear.
  • State the organization's mission, and then explain how the position supports that mission, either directly (e.g., providing services to the public), or indirectly (e.g., supporting those who provide services to the public).

Examples:

  • Mental Health Technician. The mission of the Dept. of Human Services is to help people in need achieve self-sufficient, healthy, and secure lives. This position directly supports the mission by caring for mentally ill patients at the state hospital. This position improves patients’ quality of life by keeping them safe, carrying out their treatment plans, and helping them learn basic self-care.
  • Office Assistant. The Audit Department’s mission is to serve state citizens by promoting a transparent and accountable state government. This position provides general office support to the Eastern Audit Services division, which oversees all 21 eastern counties. This position helps the audit staff achieve the mission by coordinating schedules, ensuring that deadlines are met, directly interacting with customers, and providing clerical support in the production of audit reports.

Assigned Work Activities (Duties and Tasks)

Key purposes:

  • To describe the duties and tasks used to determine the position's job classification and overtime eligibility status.
  • To show the employee the work he or she must perform, and the scope of his or her independence and decision-making.
  • To identify the essential functions of the position that must be performed with or without a reasonable accommodation. This information helps ensure fair employment decisions consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Washington State Law Against Discrimination.

Tips for success:

  • State the position's most important duty or responsibility first. Often, this will be what the position spends the most time doing. Then describe the key, specific tasks performed as part of that duty. Repeat this process for each duty. Typically, three to six duties are sufficient to describe a job.
  • Assign a percentage of time to each duty. The percentages of time must total 100%. See the calculating percentages guide for more information. 
  • Be aware of confusing work activities with skills and abilities. This section of the form is only for describing the work performed; knowledge, skills, and abilities belong in the Qualifications section.
  • When writing statements:
    • Use  clear action verbs to describe the work performed with people, data, or things.
    • Describe the outcome, result, or purpose of the work.
    • Describe any tools or equipment used to complete work.
    • Describe at whose direction work is done, and who (if anyone) must review the work upon its completion.
    • Describe the level of independence, the degree of authority or control, and to whom the employee makes recommendations (if applicable).
    • Be objective.
  • Underline each statement that describes an essential function of the job. Use the following criteria to determine if a function is essential:
    • The position exists to perform the function.
    • There are a limited number of employees among whom performance of the function may be distributed.
    • The function is highly specialized so that the incumbent is hired for his or her expertise or ability to perform the function.

            For more information on essential functions, please see the Essential Functions Guide.

Examples:

  • Supervisor
    Duty: Supervises six staff who construct wooden toys within the Toymaker Production Unit.
    Tasks Include: Assigns and inspects the work of staff, and instructs staff in safety and compliance to ensure toys meet standards set by the US Consumer Safety Product Commission. Evaluates staff performance and provides ongoing feedback to help staff develop and enhance their toy-making skills. Initiates the progressive discipline process as needed to address staff performance issues in accordance with the agency’s corrective action policies and procedures.
  • Information Technology Specialist
    Duty: Conducts capacity and performance planning to determine the technology needs of the assigned area.
    Tasks Include: Performs system modeling/mapping and plans connectivity to recommend designs that will improve capacity, efficiency, or compatibility with other technology. Follows industry trends, and identifies and analyzes new requirements, capabilities, and configurations that may be applied to the organization to improve its efficiency. Tests and evaluates new software and/or hardware products, documents characteristics, and makes recommendations based on an analysis of business requirements.

       For more examples, please see Examples of Work Statements.

Lead Work/Supervisory Responsibilities

Key purpose:

  • To help describe a position's lead or supervisory responsibilities, if any.

Tips for success:

Working Relationships

Key purpose:

  • To help describe a position's level of independence and interactions with others.

Tips for success:

Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP) Designation - For Disaster or Emergency Recovery

Key purpose:

  • To notify the employee of critical work that he or she must perform in the event of an emergency. Visit COOP and Critical Positions to learn more about this topic.

Tips for success:

  • Confirm whether or not the position is designated as critical in your organization’s COOP.
  • Outline the key expectations of the employee if an emergency interrupts normal operations.

Working Conditions

Key purpose:

  • To describe the conditions under which employees agree to work.

Tips for success:

  • Provide enough detail in each category to give the employee a clear picture of the expectations:
    • Work Setting: indoor/outdoor, multiple locations, exposure to hazards, etc.
    • Schedule: days and hours of work, level of flexibility and independence to set one's own schedule, etc.
    • Travel Requirements: local/statewide, overnight, extended periods, etc.
    • Tools and Equipment: standard office equipment, specialized tools, vehicles, etc.
    • Customer Interactions: frequency of interaction with uncooperative, distraught, or hostile clients, etc.
    • Other: any other working conditions that apply to the position. 

Qualifications

Key purposes:

  • To describe the criteria used to evaluate individuals in a recruitment or layoff situation.
  • To show the employee the competencies he or she needs to perform work.

Tips for success:
The following questions may help you identify qualifications:

  • What training and experience best prepare someone to work in this position?
  • What licenses, certifications, or legal requirements pertain to this position?
  • What must one know or be able to do in order to successfully perform the work of the position?
  • Think of some critical on-the-job situations related to the work activities. What knowledge, skills, abilities, or behaviors make the difference between handling these situations well and poorly?
  • What must someone in this position be willing to do (e.g., frequently work alone or without supervision)?

If you require a qualification (other than legally mandated ones), such as a certification or degree, you must document valid reasons for doing so in a job analysis.

Examples:

  • (Social Services) A Master's degree in social services, human services, behavioral sciences, or an allied field.
  • (Investigations) Three years of experience investigating personal backgrounds, unfair and deceptive business practices, insurance casualty claims, or other directly allied field.
  • (General Competency) Research and Analytical Skills/Abilities: Ability to research, evaluate and draw conclusions from data; support recommendations with facts and analysis; and interpret and apply rules, laws, policies and procedures.

Special Requirements/Conditions of Employment

Key purpose:

  • To describe any licensing, certification, or other special or legal requirements or conditions of employment that go beyond the general qualifications of the position.

Tips for success

  • Use this section to highlight post-employment conditions or qualifications. For example, "License X must be obtained within six months of employment."

In Training Plan

Key purpose:

  • To outline what the employee must do and learn to become trained to perform the job.
  • To fulfill the requirements in WAC 357-19-235 and 357-19-245 for positions designated as "in-training."

Tips for success:

  • Include key milestones and deadlines for achievement.
  • See WAC 357-19-235 through 357-19-285 for details about in-training positions and appointments. Contact your Human Resources office for further assistance.